Category Archives: Entertainment - Page 2

Mass Effect and Sexism

Or… Why I uninstalled Mass Effect after one day of playing.

Before I get into this I just want to say that I really wanted to like Mass Effect. I’m talking Mass Effect 1 here, and yes, I realize that I’m about four years late. This game seemed to have it all. A science-fiction FPS (first-person shooter) with an interesting story, characters, and world. Shepard (the main character, who is chosen as either male or female at the beginning), in particular was very interesting to me. She was very strong and assertive. Seeing a female badass in a game like this is sort of rare (a problem in and of itself, but let’s move on). Still, as I played my first few hours I started to get this sinking feeling that Mass Effect wasn’t as progressive about women as I’d originally thought.

Basically, the “world” of Mass Effect brings nothing new or challenging to the table when it comes to sex and gender. The Mass Effect universe is stuck with the same, tired, hurtful stereotypes about women that are being pushed onto us currently by the media and our culture. Female characters in Mass Effect are either hyper-sexualized… or they don’t exist at all. The developers chose not to include female models for most of the races in the game. The reason? The art director/designers/developers don’t know how to render a female character of an alien race without gendering her as overtly and very female (We’re talking lipstick here). How uncreative and downright stupid is that?

Read this article by Alex Raymond over at GameCritics.com for a very good write up that hits all the points much better than I could have hoped to.

Further reading:
Designing non-human females (and how Mass Effect failed)

Understanding Music Copyright and the Public Domain

I wanted to let my thoughts stew for a week before I wrote anything about my first task, Understanding Music Copyright and the Public Domain, in the p2pu Classical Music study group. So here we go!

Before now, I’ve never really done too much research into intellectual property law or the public domain, so the specifics are all pretty new to me. As an artist I had a basic understanding of copyright law, and in the case of my art I’m very restrictive about it’s use. On my deviantart page, for example, I watermark all of my work because I don’t want people to take it and put it elsewhere without my permission. deviantart is actually pretty progressive in that it allows users who submit art to attribute different types of creative commons licenses to their work if they so choose. I think that’s how I first got exposed to the creative commons and thinking about copyright and licensing.

For a copyright/cc/public domain beginner, I’d recommend reading this part of a FAQ on the Creative Commons website. The Creative Commons licensing page also has a nice video that explains the licenses themselves. This is a general overview of how it all works, but for music things are a little different. I think PD info has a pretty good FAQ that sums up how it works and gives some important dates. One thing to note (which I didn’t realize and feel silly for now), is that all of the research I’m doing applies to the USA only! I’d be interested to hear about how other countries’ copyright and public domain music laws work.

There’s also free music, “which is either in the public domain or licensed under a free license by the artist or copyright holder themselves, often as a method of promotion.” Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has released two of his albums under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA), which was very interesting to me. Open music, a subset of free music, is the concept of “open source” applied to music, and seems to be more permissive of derivative works and collaboration.

From my research, it seems like everything I want to listen to has a composition in the public domain, but very few of them have a recording in the public domain. So what do we do? Well, there are a few resources. I think the immediate response is to try to search youtube, and while this will probably be the quickest and easiest way to find something, there’s a catch. Since youtube has a duration limit for its videos and because there are usually a number of movements in each piece, the youtube listening experience isn’t as good as having the full-length album or sound files. Still, it may be our only way to find certain pieces and it a good fallback resource.

As far as searching the internet, Wikipedia:Sound/list is a very good place to start, especially for older classical pieces. The Internet Archive is pretty good too. I got good results from searching like this: “(collection:opensource_audio OR mediatype:opensource_audio) AND -mediatype:collection AND classical”. Musopen is a non-profit that have a large database of free classical music to listen to as well. I’m pretty sure our public libraries will have a good selection, too. I’ll be going some time this week to test that theory.

Learn about classical music

Listen and write about classical music to gain a better understanding and appreciation of it

This collaborative study group is meant for anyone who wants to know more about classical music. We will participate in three ways:

Read about the history of classical music, composers, instruments, and etc.

Listen to classical pieces.

Write about your reactions and thoughts to the piece you listened to and share these ideas for continued discussion.

Interested? Join the study group

Youtube channel

Hey! I have a Youtube channel now. You can find it here. Not entirely sure how much I’m going to be using it, but I figured since Google is eventually going to take over the world I might as well be ready. Speaking of which, Google TV looks amazing. Sorry for the short post, but I’ve been really busy lately.

The Tunnel

I couldn’t read Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. I couldn’t read Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Now I’m feeling like I might skip reading Gass’ The Tunnel.

I’m almost to the point of bringing it back to the library, but I feel bad because I specifically asked the library to carry this book. Finding that it didn’t exist in the WORLD database for the library system kind of surprised me. I’m torn between forcing myself to read the whole 600+ page book to see if I can get anything out of it and just giving up at page 60.

To make things even harder, as I was thinking about what to do while in the shower I randomly read the engraved name of my shower head: Kohler. That also happens to be the last name of the character in The Tunnel. Strange coincidences make things hard.